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Celebrate Vinsanity

The Verdict: Should Vince Carter's No.15 be the first jersey the Toronto Raptors retire?

All week long here on NBA.com we're celebrating the amazing accomplishments and enduring legacy of Vince Carter who decided to call it a career after an awe-inspiring career that spanned a record 22 seasons. For more never-before-seen Carter content, check out ThankYouVince.com which features an interactive look back through the defining moments including never-before-seen content.

Now that Vince Carter's career is officially over, the clock ticks on when Raptors fans will see his number 15 jersey raised to the rafters of Scotiabank Arena.

Carter is and will always be one of the most memorable players to ever wear a Raptor uniform and most fans would say that his jersey should be memorialized.

But should it be first?

The Raptors have yet to honour anyone with a jersey retirement and the first number raised will certainly be of utmost importance to the organization and the fanbase.

Few would question whether or not VC's jersey should be one that hangs forever, but should it be the first one?

I've laid out both sides of the debate and I've asked my NBA.com colleagues to pick a side and end the debate once and for all.

The Case

Should the first jersey the Raptors retire be Vince Carter's?

The arguments

The case for Vince: It's been 15 years since Vince Carter last played a game with the Raptors and yet anytime his name comes up we immediately think of his time with Toronto. Carter is to Canadian Basketball what Michael Jordan is the global growth of the game.

There's not a kid who grew up in the Vinsanity era that can say they didn't practice trying to be Vince in their backyards. There's not a Canadian born player in the NBA that can say they weren't inspired by Carter's time in the 6ix.

If it wasn't for Carter's arrival in 1998, are we sure the Raptors are still in Toronto? Are we sure the ACC fills up with fans if, say, Antawn Jamison was the man in T.O.? Let's face it, VC was the perfect blend of talent and excitement that very well might have saved the Raptors from moving to the States as their expansion cousin Grizzlies did.

Carter was also the first to help the Raptors breakthrough and make the postseason. He was also the first to help them win a playoff series and came a shot away from sending Toronto to the Conference Finals in just their second playoff appearance. He was the trendsetter and he set the bar high in his seven seasons in Toronto.

The only player to average more points per game (23.4) in a Raptor uniform is Kawhi Leonard who played all of 60 regular season games... a far cry from the 403 for VC. Carter still ranks in the top five in both blocks and steals - and they say he didn't defend! He's still top four in win shares, only being passed by Chris Bosh, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry who have all played over 100 games more than Carter in a Raptor uniform.

Vincent Lamar Carter is the most impactful Raptor there ever was.

There's no debate, number 15 should be the first jersey hanging at Scotiabank Arena.

The case against Vince: Look, all those points are valid. Carter is without question the most impactful Raptor of all-time. You can't understate what his arrival meant to the organization, the city and ultimately the game.

But when talking the Greatest Raptor of all-time, we all know that list begins with Kyle Lowry.

And like Vince has a ton of firsts, Lowry does too.

A first playoff series win? Yeah, it was a big deal at the time, but now it's just a cute little footnote in Raptors history.

Let's talk about the first Lowry has under his belt.

The first to take his team to the Conference Finals (twice), something VC couldn't accomplish. The first to take his team to the Finals - a series VC never played in his entire career. And, of course, the first to bring Larry O'Brien to the city and country. Quite frankly, that's the only first people will remember - the championship.

There's no doubt that Vince set the bar in his time with Toronto, but the way he left put the Raptors in a hole they would take years to recover from. He gave up on his team and pouted his way out of town. We can forgive, but we'll never forget.

By the time Lowry arrived in Toronto, the franchise was a far cry from the one that Carter had on the cusp of the Conference Finals. The bar he had once set was thrown somewhere in a ditch. Lowry had to pick up the pieces and rebuild alongside DeRozan. Lowry had to reset the foundation and help build a winning culture where it really and truly didn't exist.

Lowry finished the job with a championship and never shied away from the pressures that come with being the man.

Even if he didn't always agree with the moves or direction the franchise was headed, Lowry threw the number 7 on and gave it his best. In sickness and in health, for better or worse, Lowry answered the call every time Toronto needed him. Can we say the same for Vince?

At the end of the day winning is what matters - and I'm not talking about winning a dunk contest either, which is about the only thing Carter won in his time in Toronto. Terrence Ross did that too by the way.

Winning basketball games is what the game is about and that's what Lowry brings to the table.

The Raptors have a unique opportunity to thank Lowry for the blood, sweat and tears he gave the franchise. It's rare that a team has a chance to give one of their players the honour of being the first jersey in the rafters.

And besides, it's not like Vince can't wait.

Charles Barkley waited until 2011, 11 years after he retired and five years after he was inducted into the Hall of Fame to see his jersey retired in Phoenix.

Shaquille O'Neal hasn't had his jersey retired by the Orlando Magic, a franchise that he helped get to the Finals for the first time in history.

And Tracy McGrady who's already in the Hall hasn't got the call from either the Magic or Rockets to retire his number 1.

Vince will have his day. He'll watch No. 15 be raised to the rafters and he'll have earned it.

But Kyle Lowry should come first.

The Jury

Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): In the case of who should have their jersey hanging from the rafters first at Scotiabank Arena, I have to give Vince priority for a couple of reasons. Time is of the essence and the appreciation for what Carter did in a Raptors uniform is at an all-time high because of the fanfare surrounding his retirement.

I'm not saying this to say that he isn't appreciated or even unappreciated, but an imminent jersey retirement would be the perfect bow to place on the widespread nostalgia tied to Carter's legendary career.

From the lens of Lowry, he seems to only be getting better with time, so there's no telling how long it will be before he decides to hang them up. He's under contract with Toronto for at least one more season and I envision the 34-year-old riding it out with the Raps for a couple more years. Since I believe Lowry should have his jersey immediately after he retires, we shouldn't have to make Vince wait even more after that.

Since Vince was traded in 2005, Jorge Garbajosa, Amir Johnson, Anthony Bennett, Greg Monroe and Eric Moreland have each donned No. 15 for the Raptors. It's time to make sure no one else does.

Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): It has to be Vince Carter.

First of all, let's get one thing straight: Kawhi Leonard is the biggest reason the Raptors won a title, not Kyle Lowry. Had it been Lowry who single-handedly propelled the Raptors to that first elusive championship, then sure we could have a discussion about waiting around for his retirement to ensure he's the first to secure a spot in the rafters.

Lowry is the greatest Raptor of all-time and represents the heart and soul of the franchise. Nothing will change that, regardless of whether he's the first, second, third, fourth or fifth player honoured with a retired jersey.

But Carter - as my esteemed colleague so eloquently laid out - quite literally saved basketball in Canada. Vinsanity was a force of nature that put Raptors basketball on the map and, most importantly, kept it there. No player in NBA history played more seasons than Carter. And no city called Carter its own for longer than Toronto.

He should unquestionably be the first jersey retired by the Raptors.

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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